Norwich couple frustrated by rare airline quirk for Hong Kong holiday

A Norwich couple have told how a holiday to Hong Kong was disrupted after an airline overbooked the flight and refused them permission to get on board - despite the fact they had valid tickets.

Stephen and Marion Alderdice, of Garrick Green, in Old Catton, fell victim to the regular procedure of airlines overselling flights when they attempted to get to Hong Kong from Norwich International Airport on April 4.

The couple had valid tickets to fly with Amsterdam on a KLM plane for a connecting flight to Hong Kong.

However, when they arrived at Norwich airprot they were told that KLM had oversold the available seats and they would have to miss out.


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It meant they were left with no other choice than to re-arrange their connecting fligt o Hong Kong, start their holiday late and accept compensation.

Frustratingly for the couple a similar thing happened on the way home when only one of them was granted a seat, and another put on standby.

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Mr Alderdice, 62, said: 'I was not very happy to be told at 6am that we could not board the flight and we had to go home.

'We then had to phone Cathay to say we would not be on the flight to Hong Kong and call the hotel in Hong Kong, as well as organise to stay in Amsterdam before getting the next flight to Hong Kong.

'Fortunately my son works for Cathay so we got it all sorted and he tells me it is not unusual for airlines to do this, but it has left me questioning whether I can trust Norwich airport as a gateway to Europe.'

The practice of over-selling flights is common in the industry. Often there are enough cancellations - usually by frequent fliers such as businessmen - for it to not cause a problem.

Norwich International Airport chief executive Andrew Bell told the Evening News: 'Overbooking is obviously common place for airlines to undertake, however these people certainly seem like they were unlucky.

'I don't want to see any of our passengers unhappy and I want to show him that he can try Norwich International Airport again because we care about all of our passengers here.'

James Fremantle from the Civil Aviation Authority confirmed that as KLM had paid 250 Euros in compensation to Mr Alderdice and his wife, 61, they had not done anything against standard regulations.

He added: 'It's an accepted practice in the industry because if they don't over-book then generally the seats won't sell out and prices can't be kept low.

'About five years ago the European Commission considered whether to outlaw it but decided it was better for the consumer as a whole to allow it.

'We get 10,000 complaints every year and only about 100 or 200 of them are on this subject so it is rare, but airlines usually deal with it themselves and, like in this case, passengers get compensated.'

Have you had a newsworthy experience while flying? Contact David Freezer on 01603 772418 or email david.freezer@archant.co.uk

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